Dry Chapped Lips - Is Your Lip Balm Part of the Solution Or Part of the Problem?

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There's probably no more delicate or widely used part of your body than your lips. And just as your skin is prone to dryness and even damage from exposure to the elements, so too are your lips.

In fact, your lips are a lot more sensitive than the rest of your skin because unlike your skin, which has the ability to hydrate and regulate moisture, your lips have no sebaceous glands or lipids (fats) to help them retain moisture.

There are many factors that can lead to dry, chapped, cracked or sore lips. Some of the more common include:

1. Overexposure to wind, sun, and hot or cold dry air

2. Obstructed breathing that results from chronic congestion due to colds, flu, and allergies, forcing you to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose

3. A habit of frequently licking the lips

Some of these factors are simply unavoidable -- especially during the winter months, or for folks living in arid desert climates. So what can you do to keep your lips soft, supple and eminently kissable even under these types of conditions?

Well the first and most obvious solution is to use a lip care product that helps lips retain moisture and elasticity. This sounds deceptively simple. There is no shortage of lip products out there that claim to do the job, but caveat emptor (buyer beware)! If you don't know what's in your lip balm or lip care product or how it actually works, you could be adding to the problem rather than solving it! One type of ingredient could be cancelling out the effect of another --radically decreasing its efficacy.

Emollients vs. Humectants: Sealing vs. Drawing Moisture In

The same principle applies to your lips as to the rest of your skin: use products made with ingredients that impart lasting benefits by hydrating and improving your skin's ability to retain moisture. You need a good balance of emollients (softeners) and humectants (moisturizers that attract and hold water to the skin).

There are a wide variety of emollient ingredients, but the ones found in petroleum-based skin and lip products work via "occlusion" which means the act of closing off. They are spread onto the skin to slow or prevent moisture evaporation and are made up of oils and waxes that can't be penetrated by water.

Rather than assisting or improving your skin's ability to draw and retain moisture, petroleum products claim to achieve the desired result by "sealing in" whatever moisture may already be present. They coat, soothe, and soften until they wear off (or in the case of lip balm, are licked off) and then must be re-applied to continue working. Even worse, when substances like mineral oil get under the top layer of the skin they create an impenetrable barrier leading to perpetually chapped lips. There is no lasting benefit from using this type of lip product --only a lifetime of guaranteed replenishment sales for the manufacturers!

Waxes: Is Less More?

Don't be fooled into thinking that lip balms with a lot of wax are better for your lips. Although waxes can act as emollients, their purpose in your lip balm is more functional than beneficial. Waxes are added primarily for texture and to solidify or emulsify the other ingredients. A larger proportion of wax is often needed simply to stiffen the product so it can be dispensed in a push-up tube --a form preferred by many people.

Whatever form you choose, make sure your lip balm is made with natural waxes like beeswax or carnauba wax and not petrolatum or you exacerbate the problems of occlusion.

Eat What You Wear or Wear What You Eat!

There's another good reason why you should strictly avoid petroleum-based lip products.
When we lick our lips, eat, and drink while wearing lipstick or lip products, or kiss someone who is wearing a lip product, we can ingest some of the product's ingredients. By one estimate, women in the United States ingest up to 4 pounds of lipstick a year! If you are a habitual lip balm user, imagine how much product you are consuming internally. Licking your lips can increase their dryness and lead to chapping, but licking the stuff that's on your lips can ultimately lead to even more unpleasant outcomes.

Keep your lips in tip-top shape year-round by sticking to lip products made with only the best natural ingredients. If it's not safe to ingest then it's probably not safe to put on your skin either.

Copyright 2009 Dropwise Essentials

You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials' spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit http://www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News ezine or blog feed.

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Occupation: Owner of Dropwise Essentials
Dropwise Essentials is a San Francisco-based manufacturer of pure aromatherapy and organic plant-based personal care products that give people a safe and effective way to relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or manage their emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. Our products are:
* Free of synthetic chemicals and petroleum ingredients
* Made with high quality certified organic oils and pure essential oils sourced from around the world
* Packaged in re-usable or recyclable materials
* Hand-made locally in northern California

Dropwise Essentials was founded by Donya Fahmy, a writer, producer, and consultant whose avid interest in the curative powers of aromatherapy and herbs ultimately led her to design and create the seven products and seventeen unique essential oil blends that make up the current Dropwise product line. She has studied aromatherapy with Carol Schiller --a successful author of several aromatherapy books-- and with Dr. Daniel Penoel --a renowned expert in the field of medical aromatherapy.

Dropwise Essentials is a proud member of the Indie Beauty Network (formerly the Handmade Beauty Network), the Green America Business Network (formerly Co-op America), Green Product Alliance, Natural Ingredient Resource Center, and a Friend of PETA. We were among the first companies to join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics by signing their Compact for Safe Cosmetics - which simply formalizes our existing commitment to formulate products free of known or potentially toxic ingredients.

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